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The New Arab Staff

Bahrain's FM and Israeli president make 'halal toast' during Jerusalem trip

The toast was mocked [Twitter]

Date of publication: 20 November, 2020

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Bahrain Abdullatif Al-Zayani used a glass of water, instead of champagne, to toast his leader during a trip to Israel.

Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin make a "halal toast" - with glasses of water - to King Hamad, during a press conference in Jerusalem this week.

During the joint press conference, Al-Zayani spoke about peace, tolerance and coexistence, claiming these are values that Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa is also working to promote.

Activists and human rights organisations regularly condemn Manama for violating human rights. Hundreds of Bahrainis have been imprisoned since 2011 for demanding reforms in the kingdom. Many have also had their citizenships stripped away and are accused of being Iranian "terrorists".

After the Bahraini minister's speech, Rivlin went on to say: "Let us celebrate water glasses for the benefit of the King of Bahrain, the people of Bahrain and the king's health."

A toast is usually made with champagne, which is banned in Islam, along with all other alcoholic drinks. 

Read also: Bahrain's FM's visit to Israel took place in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv 

Social media mocked Al-Zayani and deplored him for his normalising his trip to Israel.

"A toast to humiliation," one social media user said.

On Wednesday, Al-Zayani, arrived in Israel on the first official visit by a Bahraini minister to the country. 

Contrary to Bahrain’s official statements which claimed Al-Zayani spent his day in Tel Aviv, he was actually in Jerusalem at the time.

One newspaper, The Times of Israel, even alleged that Al-Zayani "did not even step foot" in Tel Aviv, outside of landing in the airport, despite Manama's national news agency claiming he made statements in the coastal city.

Tel Aviv is the internationally-recognised capital of Israel until US President Donald Trump broke decades of neutrality and moved his country's embassy there. The international community saw this as a huge break from accepted protocol.

Normalisation as a betrayal 

In September, Bahrain became the second Gulf Arab state and fourth Arab country to officially normalise relations with Israel.

The move came just weeks after US President Donald Trump made a shock announcement that the UAE had normalised relations with Israel. 

Officials from Gulf states and Israel expressed that the Arab world has entered a "new era" with normalisation, and claimed that the conjunction of their regimes shows a more "progressive" attitude towards Israel.

At the time, Bahraini citizens silently protested normalisation with Israel, despite there being an ongoing crackdown on dissidents.

An Arabic hashtag which translates to "Bahrain against normalisation", has become widely used.

"If it wasn't for the way in which protesters were suppressed during the Arab Spring, I can guarantee you that there would be thousands taking the streets in support for Palestine right now," a Bahraini activist who identified himself as Mohammad, told The New Arab at the time.

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